Saturday, April 30, 2016

Is Sex in YA Right or Wrong, and Does it Matter?

So, I've been meaning to write this post for literally ages; I even have the three years old "posts to write" sheet to prove it. It's a subject that's been on my mind for a while, especially when I found Goodreads and saw reviews that reviewed not only the book, but how "Safe" it was for young adults in terms of language and sexual themes.

But like many of my discussion ideas, I have to wait until inspiration strikes to actually write them properly, and so it kind of sat there on the periphery waiting for me to come back to it. The perfect moment came when I read Biggest Flirty by Jennifer Echols due to the sexual themes in the book, though non of them graphic.

Reading that book, which I loved by the way, I came back to this question.
You see, this question is difficult because first you have to decide what is the purpose of YA to you. YA can be a realistic representation of young adult life (no matter it's genre), or an instrument of education. And at the end of the day, it's usually a mix of both.

Now, why does the distinction matters for this discussion's purpose?
As a realistic representation of YA I think sex should and needs to be present in those books. Not necessarily by the characters having it, but definitely something that is there. You can't ignore reality and pretend teens aren't having it.

I may have been the geekiest girl in high-school and wasn't having sex or friends with those were having it, but it was still all around us. It was something we (very rarely, admittedly), discussed. More than that - it was something we were interested in, even if just in our wildest dreams.

And nowadays, this is even stronger, as the consensus toward sex changes and becomes much more open.

So a YA novel that is completely "clean" is unrealistic, to a point it even feels childish. I have read a few books that were hard to believe dealt with teenagers because it was just so "clean".

(You might already figure out I'm on the "should exist" wagon in RL)
BUT, it is important to consider the other side. Books are something we learn of, same as TV. My fifteen year old brother knew about sex and understood it by thirteen, maybe before (but I'd rather not dwell on that because ewww), due to all the content he was exposed to.

That makes one wonder, if by showing it in media that is expressible to all ages, especially in content directed to young adults (which includes children from twelve and up), aren't we exposing them to it? maturing them faster and pushing them towards it earlier?

If sex wasn't present in all those high-school novels, would kids still be doing it in high-school with the same frequency? (Probably, because the problem is much wider than just books, but you have to start somewhere right?)

However... why are we treating sex as something dirty and bad, even in context of making something 'safe'? Sex is not a problem. Having and enjoying it is not a problem. Unprotected, reckless sex is. And kids will be doing more of it if they're not taught better - which is where books come along.

Yes, I sometimes think kids stop being "kids" very early nowadays, when they are not necessarily ready or have the power to fully, rationally and logically deal with that maturity. But I'll be honest... I don't think books are the problem.
Sex exists in the world. Sex is pretty much everywhere, now more than ever. It can be good, it can be bad. It can be with someone you love and it can be just because you're looking for some physical contact.  Same in books. It can preach against it or show the beauty of it, or be there just because. 

Honestly, I don't care either way about sex. It doesn't bother me in any form (99% of time) and it doesn't bother me when I recommend books to others. And for me, there is no real discussion of "should it be present" in these books, because everything has a legitimacy to be written... especially something so visible nowadays. 

But what there is and always will be is the right parents have to monitor their children's reads (up to a certain age) and decide whether a book is safe enough to read - those are the same parents who will take from their time to monitor what their kids are watching and block certain channels and sites.

I think that as a parent (when the time comes) I would rather let my children read books that deal with the subject in an enlightened, positive matter, books that will teach them how to behave and what precautions to take and not to be ashamed of it than shelter them completely... and that will be another form of monitoring, really.

Well, I feel like this discussion kind of went around itself, but I let all I wanted to say out so I'm good lol

Which camp are you on the - Right or Wrong? Does sex in YA bother you? Have you ever thought of this before? What type of parents are you - or you think you will be?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck | Book Review

The Tiger's Saga #1
First Published: 2011
Paperback
Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating:
Passion. Fate. Loyalty.
Would you risk it all to change your destiny?
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she'd be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-years-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that's exactly what happens.

Face-to-face with dark forces, spell-binding magic, and mystical world where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Believe it or not - this is the much shortened version of this review... 

Can you shout MEH loud enough? 

I was immediately snared by Tiger's Curse gorgeous cover. Learning it was about shape-shifting tigers and Indian culture? William Blake's The Tiger as an opening poem??? Sounded like a shoe-in for me. So much so, that I bought all three books in series at once (it was before the final or maybe-not-final one came out).

If there was one thing this book made me feel, and often, is exasperated. Frustrated. Angry. Occasionally, it would also incite a more positive range of emotions, like a bit of tingling here and there, laughter, and nerves, so it really wasn't all bad.

We'll start with the good: Right of the bat, the most fascinating thing about this book is the culture it presents. The book takes a refreshing turn to the tried and well used plot line of "girl finds herself a chosen one in the middle of a magical world and goes on a dangerous adventure with a gorgeous magical boy" by showcasing Indian mythology.

Everything from the description of the clothes, the weapons, the gods and the culture was delightful to read of. Enough so that I googled quite a bit of them, so I could picture them correctly in my head.

It was hands down the best thing about this whole book, though I did later learn that many of the "facts", mythology and culture presented in these books are not quite accurate.

The girl in question is Kelsey, whom I liked enough... at first. There was nothing overly special about her, but I did find her funny, nice and smart. But then she got annoying. Like, over-thinking, pushing the guy away by being obnoxious towards him for no reason annoying. Despite everyone reassuring her about her worries.

To me, Kelsey kind of redeemed herself towards the end. I expected to hate her decision (which I knew in advance because I had myself spoiled by the sequel's synopsis), but found myself feeling like it was handled correctly, because it felt like the right choice for Kelsey in the place where she was at the end of the book.

The guy she's pushing away and being occasionally a jerk towards? His name is Ren. He was pretty swoony, I admit. He's an adorable tiger, and a sweet and gentlemany man. He speaks in an old fashioned way and isn't afraid to say anything. Mostly, he says things no real boys of our times will say--or rather be willing to say.

And I loved how he wasn't afraid to tell Kelsey he loved her.  

Obviously the main romance of the story is between these two characters. I felt like it started really well - it was both sweet and cute, depending on whether they were tiger and "owner" or man and woman. I was pleasantly surprised at how long it took to develop considering the type of book this is (though I would still have liked for more time to pass), and how Houck structured everything to make the illusion more time had passed--and how she made Kelsey admit they were rushing ahead.

However, once Kelsey's worrying and moaning started, I was feeling a little meh about it all. We'll have to see where it develops to. 

Always alongside Kelsey and Ren is Mr. Kadam, who is the older mentor for our main characters. Every bit of information we get in this book comes from this guy. He shares some amazing stories from the Indian culture, which as I said before was my favorite part of the story.

And did I mention that he cooks, reads, knows how to fight, and ages really well? He just may be the perfect man!

The final cast member we're introduced to is Kishan, Ren's estranged brother. He was in the book for a short while, but you could already tell he was very different from his sibling. His attraction towards Kelsey was a bit jarring though, considering they've known each other for a week. I couldn't help but wonder if he was interested just because Ren was, trying to re-create his former "success" against his brother.

And of course, one also has to mention the none-existing villain Lokesh whom we see 3 times during this entire 500 pages long book. None of which are actual appearances, but more like visions and flashbacks. It's hard to be afraid of someone who thought a good curse would be to turn his enemies to tigers--with a grace period, no less. 

I mean, he clearly hasn't read the evil-villain handbook. First lesson on it is kill your enemies if you capture them. But if you're looking for more flair, turning them into deadly animals that can bite your throat off is not a valid option! Turn them into harmless bunnies if you must turn them into anything - that way you could torture them with eternal humiliation and they couldn't really hurt you. 

Can you tell I'm a little touchy about this whole thing?

Another highly disappointing thing was the action. It took a looong time to get to it, and when we did there were a ton of exciting problems - with solutions that didn't deliver. Everything was resolved much too easily, with the first idea always being the correct one (even if it was extremely silly). So either it was too easy, or Kelsey was made much too smart. 

Speaking of this, I have to mention the writing and the editing.

The editing, at the very least in my edition (Hodder), was god-awful. I'm not one to usually notice these type of thing, but Kelsey's thoughts were sometimes said in past-tense, sometimes in present. Words jumped lines in some places, and in other's paragraphs continued for pages without break. And the freakin' fonts. My god, curly handwriting is pretty and all--but some of it was completely unreadable to me! 

Even without the faulty editing, I did not enjoy the writing style of this book. At parts Houck's details helped weave these magical, beautiful pictures that took my breath away, at others I simply drowned in the description, and had to read the same paragraph a couple of times or give up all together. 

I felt like Houck lacked the balance between creating an image in our head and trying to make us see an exact replica of what she saw, down to how the freakin' faucet looks like. I really don't care about that damn faucet. 

And the dialogues were sometimes... odd. It was wooden and unnatural at times (especially Kelsey's), and had the Dora-The-Explorer effect every time someone said a "big word" in another language. People don't do that in real life. Usually, when foreigners move to their native tongue, it's because they can't figure out the counterpart in English. So naturally, they aren't going to translate for the convenient of your readers. Be authentic, or don't do it at all. 
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Forever, Jack by Natasha Boyd | Book Review

Forever, Jack by Natasha Boyd
Eversea #2
First Published: 2013
Kindle
Adult, Contemporary Romance
Rating:
Keri Ann Butler's life changed on the night she met movie star, Jack Eversea. She thought she knew a Jack that was very different to the man adored by fans the world over. In the wake of his betrayal and abandonment, Keri Ann has had to pick up and move forward with the life she was supposed to live and has put off far too long.
Suddenly Jack is back, and his explanations for why he left seem more and more plausible, and his declarations more seductive. But being Jack's latest tabloid accessory isn't on Keri Ann's career agenda, no matter how much she is attracted to him. And how can she can ever trust him again?
Jack knows he let the only 'real' thing that ever happened to him slip through his fingers. And his hands have been tied to try and stop it. Until Now.
Jack is now fighting to save his relationship with Keri Ann, even as his crazy life threatens to tear them apart. Again. The question is, can he convince her she can have it all? And have him? Forever?
Yay, I finally completed this doulogy! You'd think, it being just two short books, that I could've done that ages ago. Alas, I like to keep you on my toes so I didn't.

Confession time, here's what I got: I didn't remember much of the first book going into this one. I thought about re-reading it for a moment or two but then decided... nah. So I was a little fuzzy on the details, but this book did a good job bridging that gap. Everything was very clear so even someone who read the first book two years ago could understand.

My thoughts on Forever, Jack? Unnecessary. It's not that it was bad - but did you really need to split the novels into two for this? You could've had one great standalone instead! And don't let the 300+ page count fool you. These books feel short.

Forever, Jack deals with the aftermath of Jack leaving Keri Ann and how they come back together. I think maybe 30% of the book is a flashback to what Jack did in those months they were separated and why he didn't just come back to Keri Ann.

The rest was them repeating and rehashing the same weak conflict over and over again. If Keri Ann didn't pretend to be over it or determined to succeed in their relationship despite it, it would've been less annoying but the way she kept going back and forth pissed me off. It's like, this book could've ended 150 pages ago if you'd stop.

It just didn't have enough sustenance, you know?

That's not to say I didn't enjoy seeing this sweet couple find their happily-ever-after and being cute af while doing so. 'Cause... I really did.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

The (Many) Problems of Need by Carrie Jones | Book Breakdown

Be warned: the following was originally included in my review for Need and is an extensive breakdown of all the parts in it that I found stupid, illogical, and exasperating. The entire thing is a huge, uncensored and honest spoiler. Read it only if you've read the book, or if you're really interested in reading all that got me so fired up about this mess of a book.

SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER

Need by Carrie Jones
Need #1
First Published: 2008
Paperback
Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating:
Zara collects phobias the way other girls collect Facebook friends. Little wonder, since life's been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother's pretty much checked out. Now Zara's living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays safe. Zara doesn't think she's in danger; she thinks her mother can't deal. Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn't a figment of her imagination. He's a pixie--and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He's the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he's trailing Zara. With suspense, romance, and paranormal themes, this exciting breakout novel has readers rapidly turning the pages.

Okay, let's get started. Those are just some of the specific problems I had with the book, and definitely the ones that jumped most at me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Need by Carrie Jones | Book Review

Need #1
First Published: 2008
Paperback
Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating:
Zara collects phobias the way other girls collect Facebook friends. Little wonder, since life's been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother's pretty much checked out. Now Zara's living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays safe. Zara doesn't think she's in danger; she thinks her mother can't deal. Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn't a figment of her imagination. He's a pixie--and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He's the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he's trailing Zara. With suspense, romance, and paranormal themes, this exciting breakout novel has readers rapidly turning the pages.

Need was the first ever "bad" review and rating I posted (originally on Goodreads). It got that questionable honor by being one of the most disappointing books I've read to date, which is a big deal, considering I knew nothing about the book coming into it and therefore had no expectations.

And it still managed to completely crush me - because it started out so good, with the quirky chapter titles, laugh worthy moments and the cool seeming heroine. Unfortunately, it all went downhill fairly quickly. Honestly, if anything, this book makes me feel cheated.

Zara is our main character, and despite what I said above - I didn't really like her. I hated how she behaved towards her mother. I hated how illogical and self centered and downright stupid she was.

Then we have Nick, the resident hot guy love interest and a semi-main character. He had his sweet moments, sure, but they were mostly overshadowed by his major dick ones...

To be honest, the characters I did like were Issie and Devyn, and they were sadly negated to barely-there side characters.

And stillI had two MAJOR problems with the whole lot of them, the first being the sad unfortunate truth that they were all extremity, insanely... stupid. They never ask the right question... or any questions at all, for that matter. They just accept everything at face value and wait for something to happen next. I mean, c'mon!

Don't believe me? Well, what if I told you they find a note that tells the peculiar story of a sacrifice and running away, alongside a small side-note about pixies. Do they ask questions--what's it about, who wrote it, etc? Even just to each other? Err, no. They do not.
The second, which is the superior sin between the two, was the fact I did not find them believable... at all. Their behavior, actions and reactions all rang false and scripted. They never jumped out of the pages, never felt alive.

And yet, for such dead characters, you'd be amazed at how exasperated I got by the romance (or whatever the hell that was). But, well, this is insta love after all. The kind that make you pull your hairs out, because they know absolutely nothing about each other, and yet they reach the kind of relationship where somehow, the other's presence is a magical balm to all ills in the world. Even though, you know, cuddling will probably not stop the crazy creatures after you from stealing your humanity. But, whateves, kissing's way more important.

Then came the ending. I don't think I've ever read of a silliest one, and that's saying something 'cause I read this back in 2012 and it's still accurate. It was just ridiculous. The logistics made no sense, lady luck played much too big a part and the pixies' previously established traits just vanished at the convenience of our heroes.

And let's not forget... how considerate of the bad guys to listen to what the good tell them! Jolly nice of you, mate!

Come back tomorrow for a breakdown of the (many) stupid things in this book - no hold backs, no spoiler tag, no mercy. 
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb | Book Review

In Death #3
First Published: 1996
Paperback
Adult, Mystery
Rating:
She was one of the most sought-after women in the world. A top model who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted -- even another woman's man. And now she was dead, the victim of a brutal murder. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas put her professional life on the line to take the case when suspicion fell on her best friend, the other woman in the fatal love triangle. Beneath the facade of glamour, Eve found that the world of high fashion thrived on an all-consuming passion for youth and fame. One that led from the runway to the dark underworld of New York City where drugs could fulfill any desire -- for a price . . .
When I finished reading Glory in Death, the second book in the series, I was so hungry for more that I just had to read the next book immediately. Ultimately, I think this was not the right choice - because I feel fairly certain that I would've liked this book a lot more if I took a short break between the two books.

Why? Two reasons.

The first, I feel like I was kind of too in-sync with Robb and that helped me identify the killer the moment I met him. That made me feel like it was too obvious (or Robb is just very talented at radiating underlying evil-ness from her characters) and frustrated that no one figured it out sooner.

The second is the pacing, which was much slower compared to Glory in Death. While I loved the homey bits between parts of the case, I wasn't the biggest fan of how the investigation dragged. Not that the pace wasn't realistic, but still.

Speaking of which, the homey parts are the best. We previously left Eve and Roarke on a cliffhanger in the form of a marriage proposal. Immortal in Death opens up with the most adorable and funny exchange between the love birds about the upcoming wedding, ensuring that Eve accepted and that I am a happy, grinning, camper.

But nothing is ever simple for Eve Dallas. On top of wedding preparations--of which she is scared stiff--she's got to deal with a couple of murders, clear her best friend from said murders, and deal with her murky and abusive childhood.

But don't let that scare you - while these books always deal with harsh subjects, J.D. Robb is a master at balancing the ugly with the good, the cute and the heartwarming, through quirky dialogues, colorful and lovable characters and swoon-worthy romances, and she does it in a way that puts a smile on your face.

Speaking of the characters... Eve is, as usual, amazingly likable and kickass. I won't delve into too many general details about her 'cause I did that in my review of Glory in Death, but I will say that I love seeing her loyal side and deal with her emotions over her horrific father.

Roarke, her soulmate, is as yummy as always. This time we got to see another side of him, the side of him that can get upset with Eve. And if anything, it just added to their relationship.

A thing that kind of retracted from their relationship, or at the very least from some of the things that happened with it was how Robb squeezed in a worry Eve had over the wedding and their feelings in the last chapter. That was just so sudden and sprang put of nowhere. There was no need to add this one, especially not in the last chapter, and then solve it so easily.

An interesting character we got to know better in Immortal in Death is Eve's bestie, Mavis. I've always loved Mavis, with her ridiculous and over the top personality, but she somehow ended up being "just another character" in the book for me. She felt somewhat flat, as opposed to Peabody who positively shone!

I'm getting ahead of myself. Peobody is a young, ambitious cop who looks up to Eve. We met her before, but we got to see a whole lot more of her in Immortal in Death as Eve attaches her to the case. What we find is a witty, strong and smart woman who has a funny comeback to everything, but takes her job very seriously. She added much needed humor to the dry parts, but she was never just that. She was an integral and important part of the plot--not just comic relief.

J.D. Robb brings interesting, engaging, believable and likable characters to life in a complex web of mystery and intrigue, with no lack of sexy or heartbreaking times. This series is rapidly becoming one of my favorites!
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Under the Spotlight by Angie Stanton | Book Review

Under the Spotlight by Angie Stanton
The Jamieson Collection #3
First Published: 2015
Kindle
Young Adult, Romance
Rating:
Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han, this third book in the Jamieson Brothers trilogy will have readers wanting to fall in love with a rock star.
After an embarrassing stint on a reality TV music competition years ago, Riley Parks vowed never to sing again. Now she's working at the prestigious Sound Sync recording studio, and life is looking up. But then Garrett Jamieson, the oldest brother in the famous Jamieson brothers band, crashes into her world.
Garrett has hit rock bottom, and after calling in a few favors, he ends up working at the Sound Sync studio to learn the ropes of record producing. And he can't believe his luck when he discovers that Riley is an amazing singer. But Garrett is forced to use every trick in his arsenal to persuade Riley to record.
Sparks fly as Garrett finally meets his match. But in the heat of the moment, one stolen kiss changes everything.
Under the Spotlight is probably my favorite of this trilogy. I've been waiting for this story for over a year, always curious to see how Stanton will tackle Garrett falling in love.

Who's Garrett? Don't tell me you don't know who Effin' Garrett Jamieson is. From the band? Those boys that rocked the hearts of girls everywhere until they broke said heart by breaking up? Yes, those Jamiesons. Garrett is the oldest of the bunch... and a massive jerk. He was a jerk in Rock and a Hard Place, he was a jerk in Snapshot and he's a jerk here.

And in all honesty? I absolutely loved that. I loved the Stanton wasn't afraid to keep Garrett the character she made him in books 1 & 2 instead of backtracking and trying to change him so he'll be more likable, like some authors do.

Instead, she let us see, by keeping him a consistent jerk, that he was completely unaware of what a douche he is. That, in turn, helped make him kind of lovable. Because you could tell this controlling, crossing-the-boundaries attitude was his personality and he wasn't trying to be a jerk. And once pointed in the right direction, he was willing (after a while), to make some changes. Granted, Riley has her work set out for her, but Garrett is not un-redeemable by a long shot.

Speaking of Riley, I liked her. I liked her attitude and her spunk, I liked that she wasn't willing to let life beat her down, I liked that once she made her mind about something it was set. I liked that she didn't take Garrett's bullshit and called him out on it. Most of all, I liked that she took care of her family... though I wish she threw her good-for-nothing-mom to the curve.

They made a good couple because of how they balanced each other. Garrett pushed Riley for better, believed in her where she didn't believe in herself, and Riley took Garrett down a notch, correcting his behavior and helping him see being a control freak is not cute at all.

My only complaint is that I felt the angst, such as it was, was unnecessary.

As for things I wished we got to see? At the top of my list is interactions between Garrett and Riley's siblings. I think that could've been fantastic, and maybe we could see a fatherly side to Garrett with the younger children. I think it would've been something good for Garrett and the Parks.
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Maze Runner - a Study of Differences | Book vs. Movie

SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER // SPOILER
As a complete Dylan O'Brian fan, I just had to watch The Maze Runner. But in order to do that, I had to read the book first, which took awhile to convince myself to do. But I did so, eventually, and then dived headlong into the movie literally a couple of hours later.

Which turned out to be a completely different experience from the book, with ton of key elements changed. Before we move on to the in-depth study of said changes, I'd like to put something out there:

I LOVED THE MOVIE. Way more than I did the book, even though I will mostly complain about said changes. I felt tensionexcitement and fear. I was swallowed into this crazed world. I enjoyed all the characters. I thought it looked stunningly haunting and there wasn't a dull moment.

All of which are things I didn't exactly feel in the book (as you can read in my review).

In order to talk about the changes I'm going to use the (-)(+)(-/+) system, in which (-) equals a change I thought wasn't good, (+) a change I loved and (-/+) a change that was kind of... both?

Let's get started!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Maze Runner by James Dashner | Book Review

The Maze Runner #1
First Published: 2009
Paperback
Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating:
"If you ain't scared, you ain't human."
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He's surrounded by strangers--boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It's the only way out--and no one's ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
This is one of those books that stood unread on my shelves for ages. I first resolved to read it when Dylan O'Brian was announced to play Thomas, because I'm a proud Dylan O'Brian fangirl, but deciding to do it and actually doing it turned out to be two separate things.

Part of my reluctance had to do with the fact this is such a hyped novel, and I don't have the best track record with those. And... it's a dystopian novel. I... don't like these too much, if I were honest. So, in all honesty, I wasn't that hopeful about this book.

Now, this book is interesting. It leaves you with a ton of questions you want answered, which in turn makes you want to continue with the series to find them out. And it all kind of messes with your head in a good sort of way. 

But is it especially good as a story? Um... not... really. 

I found it to be extremely dull for about the first 150 pages or so. If I didn't really want to know if there was some point to all this, I wouldn't have been able to force myself to continue with it. I had to give myself a schedule of short, centered reading periods to get through it. Things kind of picked up when Theresa finally woke up.

Aside for this, I found the writing... lacking. It felt as dull as the story was. And that without mentioning the dang repetitions. I mean, I get it. The memory loss thing is funky cause you remember the things but not where/whom/when/etc you learned them. I got that the first time and the second time and the third time. By the fifteenth time I just wanted to hit Thomas over the head with a club.

Your memory may be funky, but mine sure isn't so back off me you schuck!

Speaking of Thomas... I still have no grasp over the guy, or any other character in the book. There were too many random shifts of emotions (and displays of violence), that every time I thought I understood who someone was the carpet was pulled from underneath my feet and I had to try to figure them out all over again.

I still can't differentiate between them, too. If you took out their names, I will have no idea who's speaking.

And the entire time, I had this nagging thought that they weren't smart enoughSure, they are not dumb at all. But geniuses? Err, I didn't feel that at all. They were just... normally intelligent kids. This wouldn't be an issue if a big part of the story wasn't hanging on their intellect. If you don't believe that about them, then you really don't believe any of the shit going on. And I didn't, so...

BUT, I really have no effing clue what's going on and for what possible reason this was all done! It seems utterly ridiculous! I mean, I feel like I kind of grasped the general situation outside the maze, but the maze itself still makes no sense to me. This makes me excited (and hopeful) that the next books would reveal the truth about everything.

Reading over my review, I realize I don't give too many plus points about this novel so it might be confusing as to why it's a three and a half stars read. The thing you've got to understand - the mystery and intrigue and the confusion is this books plus point. It's what made it readable and enjoyable. So despite all the minuses, I still had fun with it.
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get Ready To Have Fun With "Bromance" | Drama Review

Bromance / Taiwan
18 out 18 Episodes, completed
Aired: Oct 18, 2015 to Feb 21, 2016
Episode Duration: 75 min. (1 hour, 15 minutes)
Romance
Rating:
Because of one simple word from a soothsayer, Pi Ya Nuo has been raised as a boy all her life. By chance she saves underworld mob boss Du Zi Feng and his sister. His sister falls in love with Pi Ya Nuo at first sight. Things gets complicated when the she becomes "sworn brothers" with the mob boss, just as her 26th birthday comes closer, and with it her chance to finally live as a woman. As her 26th birthday approaches, she must decide if she wants to return to a woman or continue to be Du Zi Feng's best pal.
So, welcome to Bromance, where one girl disguised as a man meets a triad boss and falls madly in love with him (and vice verse).

But don't worry, these are the nice triad. The ones who own amusement parks, have nothing to do with the underworld and just want to bring happiness to everyone. Even their enemies are considerate; opting to shot at them with paint-guns as warnings and doing everything themselves so they'll be easy to find (this might has to do with good henchman being expensive and bad henchman just being unreliable. IDK).

Okay, now that I got through this ridiculous part, I can move on to the actual drama - BECAUSE I LOVED IT. Why? Easy.

A GIRL PLAYING A GUY CONVINCINGLY
One of the trickiest parts of doing this type of drama is that the audience has to believe the girl playing the guy, so you won't be left wondering how no one figured it out earlier. A bit like how I come out of every Superman movie thinking the universe dumb for no one catching that he's Clark Kent?! 

Anyways, Lai Megan, the actress who plays Pi Ya Nuo (pronounced like Piano) does a phenomenal job of acting, moving and talking like a guy. Her guy-act crumbles the further we get into the story and the more Pi Ya Nuo falls in love, as the characters herself stops wanting to act like a guy, and it's was beautifully done!

MAIN CHARACTERS WITH SIZZLING CHEMISTRY
It is hot in here, or is it just these two burning my screen? 

Du Zi Feng and Pi Ya Nuo  have a great chemistry between them from the get go. The sexual tension and the way they gravitate toward one another is wonderful. And their relationship is so fun and comfortable you got to love them.

Their interactions often made me giggle at my screen or hide my face because HOW ARE YOU NOT EMBARRASSED AT ALL THE SWEET NOTHINGS YOU JUST SAID I'M EMBARRASSED FOR YOU! but in a good way.

VERY LITTLE ANGST 
If you're looking for a drama that throws angst at you at every turn, breaks up your otp a bazillion times, throws obstacles upon obstacle at them, leaving them crying at the end of every episode... look someplace else, because this is not it. But don't worry, almost every other foreign dram I've seen is so I'm sure you'll find one soon. 

In Bromance, there are so many places that felt like set-up for some angst or another, but it never fell into these traps. It was like the drama was deliberately saying: "you thought we'd go there, but no - these two are perfect for one another and stupid things like these aren't going to bring them down. Muhahaha we fooled you!"
AWESOME SUPPORTING CAST 
All the characters surrounding Du Zi Feng and Pi Ya Nuo were great as well, adding color and variety to the plot. But all of them, almost without exception were loving and supportive. At the end of the day, even if they were dismayed by the (apparent) gay relationship, they were there for their loved ones.

THE ONE DOWNSIDE - WEI QUING YANG AND NANA'S STORY
Amidst the fun love story of Du Zi Feng and Pi Ya Nuo, we have a secondary love story... that felt like a complete tone-change to the point of whiplash and ended up leaving me very unsatisfied. Don't get me wrong, I liked these two, but it felt like all of the sudden I was watching a very different drama... and then it just ended like that? I felt no satisfaction! If you put them in the drama, you should at least give them and their story the respect it deserves! 

SO
If you want to watch a show that will make you SQUEE and SQUEEL often as the two main characters grow closer and closer, will warm your heart and make you feel very protected and satisfied, that will make you laugh inappropriately and affectionately at times for how ridiculous it is...

Bromance is the show for you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan | Book Review

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Brothers Sinister #1
First Published: 2012
Kindle
Adult, Historical Romance
Rating:
Sometimes love is an accident.
This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly--so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.
But that is precisely what she gets.Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...
Honestly, I am shocked at how much I loved this. I was not prepared to fall head over heels in love with this novel the way I did, but the characters pretty much won me over instantly and the romance between them swept me off my feet accordingly.

First we have Minnie. Here is a woman who is smart, clever and funny, but most refreshing - she isn't a bumbling virgin who knows nothing of anatomy and pleasure like so many historical heroines out there. She's very aware and she isn't going to apologize for this. Furthermore, she is just so brave. I'm not sure I would've been able to face my fears the way she has.

Her other half is Robert. Now, Robert, where do I begin with him? Firstly, he's not a rake or a womanizer, which was just delightful to me. What he is is a smart, funny, loyal and honest man who just wants to help those who have been dubbed "beneath him". Can't think of a better hero.

Now, the relationship between them. There was an instant attraction there, and a kinship that comes from two active minds recognizing someone they can talk to. And from this point, the attraction starts to grow until they can barely hold it in--and then they can't! It's beautiful to behold.

But the absolute best about this couple? SPOILER NO ANGST. I repeat: no angst. These two talk about their issues. They confront them head on instead of holding them in, thereby eliminating any lengthy, drawn up separations or misunderstandings. There are still hitches and glitches along the way, but these two love each other too much to just let things unbalance. END SPOILER

Around these two are a crew of great side characters. I loved each and everyone of them, but my favorite was hands down Robert's mother. I didn't expect to like her at first, but she grew on me super fast!

Another great point in this novel is the hinting of a lesbian relationship between two characters. So many historical novels ignore this facet of life, that I've come to be positively surprised every time one of them dares to even hint at it.

My only complaint about the novel was how the speech sometimes felt too modern to come across as authentic to the times, but it was such a small thing compared to all the overwhelming positives!
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Monday, April 11, 2016

The Structure of a Fantasy Trilogy | A Different Kind of "Second Book Syndrome"

So, lately I've been thinking a lot. Mostly on why it's so hard for me to finish trilogies, especially fantasy ones. I used to think I was super good about finishing things, but then I realized...
No, seriously. The amount of series I started, loved, and then just left it there is humongous. And it's not because I don't want to read what happens next. So... why does it happen? Well, because I like to psych things out, I think I realized at least a partial reason for it.

I am super afraid of reading second books... because of the structure of a trilogy. 

What do I mean? A fantasy trilogy (when done correctly, anyways, and doesn't just waste the middle book as filler because apparently creating just douolgies is sacrilege or something) has a very definite and frightening structure, that makes me super duper uoper scared to read the second book:
This is the good book. In here, we establish our characters, their motivations, and the general problem they're dealing with. This book would normally end on a hopeful, light note, promising better for our heroes in the future (yeah, right). A great victory, or even just a small one, but enough to make everyone momentarily happy. As well as you, the reader.

This book would typically have more wins than loses throughout, as well.
This is the worst book, as far as I'm concerned. The book that makes me bite my nails and pray to the lord. Because this book normally works at unraveling everything good we've managed to build in book one. And just in case that didn't get you depressed enough, it typically ends on a huge loss. An important fight lost, a kingdom taken, a loved one stolen/killed, our heroes having to --for the moment-- abandon the things they love... this sort of thing. 

It ends bleak and dark and gives you the understanding of what our heroes are going to have to come back from in the final book. The farther you fall, the more glorious the rise or something like this?

This book usually has either a pretty balanced tally of win/lose or more wins than losses, with the losses upping the farther into the plot you go, just to put an extra kick on that already gut wrenching final loss.
THIS is the book I hate. I don't like finishing a book feeling like everything is hopeless and having my main characters despair, even when they're still planing on fighting and I know they'll win at the end. Probably has to do with that end being SO FAR AWAY.

Book three deals with the aftermath of The Loss in book two. Everything is out of balance and the stake constantly rise as our heroes wrestle wins (and get handed losses and setbacks) while they fight for the future of the kingdom/world/family/etc.

Typically, this book will have more loses than wins, so that final battle will feel extra dangerous and momentous.
This book is more bearable to me, 'cause I know at the end of the day they have to win, even if with severe losses. So, like, there is not a whole other book to go through to deal with all these little losses. It will be resolved! This is the whole difference, for me, I guess?

But to get to this book... I need to go through the book that doesn't have that. Gulp.

Have you ever noticed this structure? Are you afraid of going into that second book as well?

(BTW, non-trilogies follow this structure less strictly, but they also tend to have the book before the finale end horribly. However, I find that it's less difficult for me to deal because it spaced more evenly).